With opening day still three months away and the mandatory portion of the initial wave of offseason workouts over, we have entered the more quiet parts of the NFL offseason. However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop.
During workouts and OTAs, players still have a chance to lay the foundation for their spots on the team. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a look at the men fighting for them on the 2017 New England Patriots. 53 of currently 90 players will be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we’ll continue the series with an undrafted rookie defensive back.
Name: David Jones
Position: Free safety
Jersey number: 34b
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6’3, 210 lbs.
2016 review: Coming off a year in which he was voted third-team All American and led the FCS with nine interceptions, David Jones returned to Richmond for his 2016 senior season. He entered the year serving as both the Spiders’ starting free safety as well as a punt returner and made an immediate impact early in the season.
Through the games, Jones registered 29 tackles, two picks and two pass breakups. He also returned five punts for a total of 91 yards (18.2 yards/return); among them a 68-yard punt return touchdown. However, his season ended quickly when Jones broke his forearm during Richmond’s sixth game of the year; an injury that forced him to spend the rest of the season on the sidelines – and one that ultimately hurt his draft stock.
While his pro day numbers would have made Jones one of the top performers at safety during the scouting combine, he went unselected during the draft. Shortly afterwards, however, the Patriots signed him to a one-year contract.
2017 preview: Listed at 6’3, David Jones is the tallest defensive back currently on New England’s roster. The undrafted rookie therefore has a natural physical advantage over his competition for a spot on either the team’s 53-man roster or practice squad. If he can add more bulk to his 210 lbs. frame, he might also be in play for a strong safety/linebacker role similar to the one played by Patrick Chung and to a lesser extent Brandon King.
What also helps Jones is his versatility. He has been a productive performer on defense and special teams through his four years at Richmond and might thus challenge another defensive back for his role on the team: cornerback Cyrus Jones. While the former second round pick appears to have the inside track for a spot on the team, a good offseason performance might at least make the undrafted rookie an emergency candidate on the practice squad.
All in all, the 10-men developmental team might be the best destination for Jones as he recovers from his second significant forearm injury. He could serve as a depth option at returner, learn behind the scenes to improve especially his tackling and run defense and potentially put on more weight to push for a backup roster spot by 2018.